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Whately Select Board votes to keep Egypt Road open

WHATELY — Egypt Road will stay open after the Select Board voted to stick to its original decision.

“We heard both sides,” said Select Board member Joyce Palmer Fortune. “It wasn’t something we did lightly. There were real safety issues on both sides. It seemed like it was in the best interest of the town to keep the road open.”

Plans set for the railroad crossing on Egypt Road can move forward with new gates, flashing lights, audible warning devices and pavement slated for the crossing. The $400,000 to $500,000 project is led by the state Department of Transportation as part of the plan to bring Amtrak stops to Greenfield and Northampton.

The Select Board made its final choice after listening during three public hearings to the opinions of residents who live along the quiet gravel road who wanted it closed and business owners, neighbors and farmers who rely on the road.

The road’s fate is not a done deal, however. Egypt Road is a county road.

If the Select Board wanted to close the road, it would have made a recommendation to the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, which would hold its own public hearing and decide based on public convenience and necessity.

Others may ask the county to consider closing the road.

Robbie Douyard, a resident and strong advocate for closing Egypt Road, said she will “speak with the neighborhood to find out what we want to do.” And she will consider going to the county herself.

The biggest influence in the board’s decision was the advice of Fire Chief John Hannum and Highway Superintendent Keith Bardwell to keep the dirt road open.

According to the public safety officials, it could take emergency responders an extra four minutes to reach Long Plain Road from State Road if Egypt Road is closed.

A traffic count by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments also swayed the Select Board. Though residents argued few people used the road and those who do use it as a speedway, the traffic count proved contrary.

According to the traffic count, a total of 135 vehicles cross the Egypt Road tracks on a typical weekday, while 177 cross the road on the weekend.

Of those vehicles, an average 48 percent travel up to 20 mph on a weekday while an average of 5.1 percent travel at 30 mph or more.

The Agricultural Commission also petitioned for the road to stay open for farmers, who use it to get from Routes 5 and 10 to Long Plain Road. The road serves as a safer route for slow-moving farm equipment.

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